Manila, Philippines, May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a leading Catholic pastoral charity, will help rebuild a Philippines cathedral destroyed in a bomb attack last month by an Al Qaeda-linked group.
Santa Isabel Cathedral in the state of Basilan was 70 percent destroyed in a series of April 13 attacks attributed to Abu Sayyaf. Attackers hid a bomb in a motorcycle at the back of the cathedral.
At least 25 members of the Islamist extremist group, dressed as police and soldiers, reportedly carried out the attacks. Another bomb damaged the education department building. Explosive devices placed near a Catholic school and near a judge’s house were safely defused.
At least ten were killed in the attack, including some extremists who clashed with security forces. Bensar Indama, brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuju Indama, was among the dead.
Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela de Basilan told ACN that the blast shattered the cathedral’s stained glass windows, destroyed half the ceiling and caused heavy damage to the structure. Administrative offices were also destroyed.
Requesting urgent aid to begin rebuilding, the bishop said the cathedral is “a very important sign of our Catholic faith here in Basilan.”
Catholics are a minority in Basilan, he explained, reporting that the state is only 27 percent Catholic.
He said help was necessary because locals have “no means” for reconstruction work.
The cathedral, completed in 1970, has enough capacity for 1,400 congregants. At present Mass is being celebrated in the nearby catechetical center.
ACN has contributed more than $19,000 to the rebuilding effort, but reconstruction costs are estimated at over $100,000.
In 2008, extremists sent letters to Bishop Jumoad and other local Christians which demanded they convert to Islam or pay the Islamic Jizya tax.
In July 2009 five people, including a five-year-old boy, were killed when a bomb exploded outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Cotabato City, located in Mindanao state in the southern Philippines. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was blamed for the attack.
Shortly after the attack on the Isabela City cathedral, Bishop Jumoad told Fides news agency that the terrorist acts seek to “make life difficult for Christians and drive them out of Basilan.”
“It is the first time we are attacked so directly and with such force,” he continued.
“In the past, I received several threatening letters and intimidation. There have been other smaller attacks, but now it is very different.
“This could be a tragedy. I seriously fear for my life and the lives of the faithful,” commented the bishop.
Since the attack Bishop Jumoad has encouraged the faithful, issuing a pastoral letter calling on Catholics to remain in Basilan. He has also organized a peace procession.
London, England, May 11, 2010 (CNA) - Over the weekend, the Church of England introduced draft legislation putting the country's Anglican communion on the fast track to allowing women's ordination.
On Saturday, May 8, the Church of England's revision committee published a 142-page review in favor of draft proposals that support women being consecrated as bishops and priests.
According to Reuters, the church's revision committee also proposed safeguards for more traditional parishes who have expressed opposition to ordaining women, including the right to request that a male bishop perform blessings and ordinations. However, the committee proposals did not meet the requests by these parishes for new dioceses or a special class of bishops.
“After much discussion the Committee rejected proposals aimed at fundamentally changing the approach of the legislation for those unable to receive the ministry of female bishops,” wrote Church of England officials in a statement Monday.
The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church's General Synod, in July in York, Northern England. If passed, the Church of England will hold the same position on female ordination as the Anglican Communion in the United States and New Zealand.
Monday's statement also clarified that the “earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval in Synod (when two-thirds majorities in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be required) is 2012, following which parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent would be needed.”
The statement added that “2014 remains the earliest realistic date when the first women might be consecrated as bishops.”
This move is likely to increase interest among traditionalist Anglicans in the Pope's recent invitation for Church of England members to become Catholic. Last November, the Holy Father released “Anglicanorum coetibus,” a motu propio which offered Vatican guidelines for Anglican groups to enter into communion with the Catholic Church.
The Sunday Telegraph in Britain reported on May 2 that several Anglican bishops recently met with Vatican officials to discuss the process of converting to Catholicism.
Despite the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reportedly urging them not to leave the Church of England, several bishops are looking to break from the Anglican Communion over their opposition to the introduction of women bishops and priests.
According to the British paper, Bishops John Broadhurst, Keith Newton and Andrew Burnham, from the Dioceses of Fulham, Richborough and Ebbsfleet respectively, all met with senior Vatican officials last week.
Washington D.C., May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has announced that the Postmaster General will dedicate its new stamp honoring Mother Teresa on Sept. 5 at a ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Post Office looks forward to a “very dignified and successful” ceremony, a spokesman said.
In a May 10 phone call, Roy Betts, a community relations manager with the USPS Stamps department, talked with CNA about the dedication of the stamp.
Reporting that the ceremony will take place at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, he said that Postmaster General Jack Potter has been confirmed as the dedicating official.
However, nothing more had been planned to his knowledge and he did not know what Catholic officials were planning for the ceremony.
CNA asked about concerns about whether the stamp affects constitutional issues such as the separation of church and state.
Betts acknowledged there had been “a little activity, a little noise” about the issue when the stamp was first announced, but any controversy has since faded.
“In the past month or so, I've not received a single call or e-mail or anything about the concerns that others have raised,” he reported.
Initial complaints about the stamp were raised by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. People supportive of the Mother Teresa stamp sent a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to the Postmaster General this past February.
“The stamp program recognizes Mother Teresa for her work as a humanitarian. She was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, she was an honorary U.S. citizen. Her work on behalf of the poor is being recognized. And this honor is being bestowed on her, and it is well deserved.”
According to Betts, the U.S. Postal Service is not violating its own policy on the issue, which forbids singling out a religious organization for honors.
“This is recognition of a humanitarian who is world-renowned,” he explained.
Betts listed several religious figures honored by the USPS, such as a 1961 Mahatma Ghandi stamp and a 1979 stamp honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Catholic figures on stamps included a 1982 edition of a St. Francis of Assisi stamp and a 1986 stamp honoring Fr. Edward J. Flanagan, founder of the Boys Town orphanage.
Religious buildings featured on stamps have included the Episcopalian Washington National Cathedral and the Baltimore Cathedral.
“We’re just honored and proud to honor, to recognize Mother Teresa,” Betts said.
He said the USPS looks forward to “a very dignified and successful ceremony” at the dedication of her stamp.
Lisbon, Portugal, May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI departed from Rome this morning and arrived at the Portela International Airport in Lisbon, Portugal, commencing the 15th foreign visit of his pontificate. Speaking at the airport, the Holy Father announced that the goal of his visit is to share wisdom and remind Christians of their mission.
The Holy Father was greeted when he arrived at the airport by president of the Republic of Portugal Anibal Cavaco Silva and by the Patriarch of Portugal, Cardinal Jose de la Cruz Policarpo, as well as other civil authorities and members of the Portuguese episcopate.
In an address following his arrival, the Pope stated that he comes “as a pilgrim to Our Lady of Fatima, invested from on high with the mission of confirming my brothers and sisters as they advance on their own pilgrimage towards heaven.”
Referring to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Pope Benedict said, “As for the event that took place 93 years ago, when heaven itself was opened over Portugal – like a window of hope that God opens when man closes the door to him – in order to refashion, within the human family, the bonds of fraternal solidarity based on the mutual recognition of the one Father, this was a loving design from God; it does not depend on the Pope, nor on any other ecclesial authority: 'It was not the Church that imposed Fatima,' as Cardinal Manuel Cerejeira of blessed memory used to say, 'but it was Fatima that imposed itself on the Church'.”
“The Virgin Mary,” the Holy Father explained, “came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity – so lacking in love and without hope for salvation – the source of hope.”
“The aim of this visit,” he announced, “which I am now beginning under the sign of hope, is to be a proposal of wisdom and of mission.” This wisdom and mission, he said, finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“An insightful vision of life and of the world leads to a just ordering of society,” the Pontiff said, extending his reflection to the societal level. “Situated within history, the Church is open to collaborate with those who do not marginalize essential consideration for the human significance of life, or reduce it to the private sphere.”
“This does not mean an ethical confrontation between a secular system and a religious system,” he noted, “rather it concerns the question about the meaning that we give to our freedom. The distinguishing feature is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implication in public life.”
The Pope then spoke the of the foundation of a republic in Portugal 100 years ago, saying that “distinguishing between Church and State opened a new space of freedom for the Church,” within “a cultural and ecclesial context deeply marked by rapid changes.”
“Living in a plurality of value systems and ethical structures makes it necessary to journey to the core of one's own self and to the nucleus of Christianity in order to reinforce the quality of our witness unto sanctity, and to discover the paths of the mission that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom.”
After his address, the Holy Father went to the apostolic nunciature, where he traveled to the “Mosterio dos Jeronimo,” a 16th century monastery which was the site for the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Pontiff then made a brief visit to the ancient church of “Santa Maria de Belem,” where he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and visited the cloister of the monastery.
Later, the Holy Father was taken, via the popemobile, to the “Palacio de Belem,” also built in the 16th century, where the president currently resides. After paying a courtesy visit to the President Cavaco Silva and meeting with him privately, the Pope signed the visitors' book and greeted member's of the president's family. Before having lunch at the apostolic nunciature, the Holy Father spoke to staff members of the presidential palace.
To read the address of Pope Benedict XVI at the Lisbon International Airport, click here.
Phoenix, Ariz., May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Tuesday morning, a priest from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas was appointed Phoenix's first auxiliary bishop by the Holy Father. The youngest of five children, the bilingual bishop-elect will bring his rich experience in forming priests and deacons to his new diocese.
Fr. Eduardo A. Nevares is currently vice rector of the College of Liberal Arts at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
“With just one phone call, your life changes,” Bishop-elect Nevares told Phoenix's diocesan paper, the Catholic Sun. “In the seminary, I’m surrounded by all sorts of doctors of theology. I never expected to be named a bishop.”
The bishop-elect was born in San Antonio, Texas to a Mexican-American family in 1954. The youngest of five, young Eduardo would attend daily Mass with his mother while his older siblings were in school, reports the Catholic Sun.
Upon hearing the news of the appointment, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted, whom Bishop-elect Nevares will work alongside, noted the importance of his strong, Catholic upbringing.
“Bishop-elect Nevares comes from a wonderful Mexican-American family, with whom he maintains close bonds of love,” Bishop Olmsted said. “I am deeply grateful to them for the gift of their son to the Church. It is from them undoubtedly that he inherited his lively faith and his spontaneous spirit of joy.”
After receiving his bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Fr. Nevares went on to complete studies for his Master of Divinity Degree at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1981. That same year, he was ordained a priest for the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.
According to the Josephinum website, Fr. Nevares served as vocations director for the La Salette Missionaries as well as chaplain of the Stephen F. Austin University.
Fr. Nevares was incardinated into the Diocese of Tyler in 2007. He later became Co-Director for Vocations to Holy Orders and the Consecrated Life for the diocese and worked with formation programs for those studying to become permanent deacons.
“It is significant that he comes to us during the Year for Priests,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted told the Catholic Sun, “since he has such a wide and rich experience in promoting vocations to the priesthood, in forming men for priestly ministry in the seminary, and in building up the unity and fraternity of priests.”
His episcopal ordination is set for July 19 at the Cathedral of Sts. Simon and Jude in Phoenix.
Bishop-elect Nevares' new diocese is comprised of 706,433 Catholics, 318 priests, 269 permanent deacons and 317 religious.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 11, 2010 (CNA) - At a Mass for Argentina’s bicentennial, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, called on the faithful to remember that the country has a “mother” in the Virgin Mary, and urged them to work as her children for “peace and harmony.”
The Mass took place on the feast of the national patroness, Our Lady of Lujan.
After recalling the example of Mary who “shows great care for Argentina from deep down in her heart, beginning with the poor,” Cardinal Bergoglio underscored that Argentineans must not allow themselves to be overcome by despair.
“Let us look to the Virgin Mary and ask her not to let us go. We ask her for the grace to know how to work for our homeland, to make it grow in peace and harmony, to give us the grace to feel we are brothers and sisters, removing all hatred and anger from among us,” the cardinal said.
During the festivities for the bicentennial later that afternoon, the executive director of the Department of the Laity of the Argentinean Bishops’ Conference read the “Manifestation of Hope,” which expressed the commitment of the laity to work for the respect of “the dignity of human life … the strengthening of our institutions, citizen participation and education.”
“Today we wish to proclaim this manifesto, which is a true civic commitment of the bicentennial, so that it will be burned in our hearts and be a sign of our civic conduct,” the statement said.
At 3:00 p.m. those present lit candles as a sign of their commitment to “illuminate” the homeland and make it a “new light of hope for Argentina.” Afterward, they prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, a tradition started by the bishops during the political crisis of 2001-2002.
Similar ceremonies took place in other cities across the country.
Madrid, Spain, May 11, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, called on the media this week to report the truth and to respect the dignity of persons. He also denounced the “destructive” effects that take place when the media degrades the dignity of individuals.
In a message for the 44th World Day of Social Communications, which the Church will celebrate next Sunday, Cardinal Rouco Varela said the technological evolution of the media has been “dizzying” and acknowledged the socio-political, cultural, spiritual and religious influence they exert.
Nevertheless, the cardinal continued, in his opinion, "all too frequently," the media puts itself at the service “of social and cultural processes profoundly degrading to the dignity of the human being.”
Consequently the cardinal urged the media to report “the truth in truth.” He added that this can be difficult because of the “classic temptations to selfishness, to the acquisition of power at all costs, to money, and consequently, to deception and offending one’s neighbor.”
He added that Catholics in the media know how to be “servants of the full truth” and are therefore “direct and explicit witnesses” of the word of Jesus Christ in their profession and in the broadcasting of information to their audiences.
Aboard the papal plane, May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking aboard the papal plane on the way to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI said the message of Fatima shows that attacks on the Pope and the Church also come from sins inside the Church. These internal attacks are seen in “a really terrifying way” in sexual abuse, he remarked while calling for penance and purification.
He made his comments to reporters while traveling to Portugal, the site of a 1917 Marian apparition near the town of Fatima. He was asked if the Fatima apparition’s predictions of times of trial for the Church could be applied to the sexual abuse crisis.
In the message of Fatima, Pope Benedict answered, we can discover that attacks on the Pope and the Church “come not only from the outside, but the suffering of the Church comes from inside the Church, from sins that exist inside the Church.”
“This we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way. The biggest weight on the Church doesn’t come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the Church.
“And so the Church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice,” he said.
Pope Benedict added that Catholics need to relearn the “essentials” of conversion, prayer and penance.
During his visit to Portugal, the Pope will visit the shrine at the small village of Fatima.
When the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917, she imparted to the seers messages about the violent trials that would afflict the world: war, starvation, and persecution of the Church and the Pope.
The first two prophetic “secrets” revealed at Fatima included a vision of hell, the request for an ardent devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith.
The third “secret,” not revealed to the public until the year 2000, referred to the persecutions that humanity would undergo.
“The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated,” the Virgin Mary said, according to the seers.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict authored a theological commentary on the message of Fatima in 2000.
He wrote that the message of the apparition is “the exhortation to prayer as the path of ‘salvation for souls’ and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.”
Last week, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Pope Benedict planned to deliver an intense message during his visit to the Marian sanctuary at Fatima.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 11, 2010 (CNA) - The news service of the Archdiocese of Mexico City recently lamented the irresponsibility of Mexico City's lawmakers who, in addition to approving abortion, have now passed a law extending the hours alcohol sales in the city.
Local establishments will now be allowed to serve alcohol until 5 a.m., instead of stopping sales at 3 a.m.
“The lawmakers themselves take pride in passing laws that ought to be an embarrassment,” the news service stated in an editorial. “It’s enough to recall the law that allows the killing of children up until the third month of pregnancy. These same lawmakers have no concern for the primordial right of children to have a normal family composed of a mother and a father.”
“For now, it’s young people’s turn: they are the first victims of these kinds of irresponsible measures that permit the disorderly consumption of alcoholic beverages.” The article continued noting that the early hours of the morning “are the most favorable for the sale and consumption of drugs, precisely at this moment when Mexico is hurting from the criminal power of organized bands of drug lords.”
After criticizing arguments in support of the new law, which range from creating more jobs to offering more time to consume alcohol at a slower pace, the news service said the only solution is to combat the decision with “the responsibility of society, beginning with parents, who have the difficult task of guiding their teens and young adult children.” Parents “now will have use their prudence and authority even more to keep (their children) from becoming the fatal victims of these absurd laws.”
“Parents,” the editorial stated, “have every right … to protest against the Assembly when one of their children dies or to even ask for damages when a child dies or is injured for life.”
“And we remind these lawmakers who are only concerned with addressing the interests of the immoral business owners, that one day they will face the inescapable judgment of God, who will demand an account for all of the young lives that have been lost,” the statement concluded.
Havana, Cuba, May 11, 2010 (CNA) - Berta Soler, a member of the Women in White in Cuba, said this week that the group will ask the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, to provide mediation for the release of the country's prisoners of conscience when he travels to Cuba in mid-June.
The Women in White movement is comprised of the wives of Cuban political prisoners.
Speaking to reporters, Soler said, “the Vatican representative could influence the release of many people, not only political prisoners, but also common ones as well, as occurred during the visit by Pope John Paul II” in 1998. On June 15, Archbishop Mamberti will open the 10th Catholic Social Week at the University of Havana, during which there will be a debate on the reality of Cuba between various Catholic and non-Catholic intellectuals.
After a peaceful march this past Sunday carried out by 60 Women in White in Havana, Soler said, “We are hopeful that even if all the remaining 53 men (out of the 75 imprisoned in 2003) are not released, at least the ones who are sick will be freed.”
Solar emphasized the “important role” that the Catholic Church is playing, referring to the mediation two weeks ago by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who was able to lift the official prohibition against the Women in White from marching without an official permit.
Sunday’s march was led by Reina Tamayo, the mother of Orlando Zapata, who died February 23 after an 85 day-long hunger strike.
Lisbon, Portugal, May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his apostolic visit to Portugal, the Holy Father presided over Mass in Lisbon's Palace Square on Tuesday evening. Despite negative media attention over sexual abuse that has dogged the Catholic Church in recent weeks, the Pope assured the crowd of 160,000 people that the “resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church.”
At the sun-filled open air Mass, a cheering throng welcomed Pope Benedict and the hundreds of clergy who led the procession to the altar. With Lisbon's Tagus River serving as a backdrop, local Cardinal Jose de la Cruz Policarpo presented the Holy Father with the gift of a crucifix featuring seafaring imagery and representing the identity of the country.
In his homily, the Pope centered his message on the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, where Christ told his disciples, “I am with you always to the close of the age.”
“These words of the risen Christ take on a particular significance in this city of Lisbon, the Pope noted, recalling that from the city “generations upon generations of Christians – bishops, priests, consecrated and lay persons, men and women, young and not so young – have journeyed forth in great numbers in obedience to the Lord’s call.”
The Holy Father praised the country for its missionary commitment, saying that Portugal “has gained a glorious place among the nations for the service rendered to the spreading of the faith: in all five continents there are local churches that owe their origin to Portuguese missionary activity.”
“Today, as you play your part in building up the European Community, you offer the contribution of your cultural and religious identity,” he said. “Indeed, just as Jesus Christ joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so today he walks with us in accordance with his promise: 'I am with you always, to the close of the age.'”
“We too have a real and personal experience of the risen Lord, even if it differs from that of the Apostles,” the Pope observed.
“In the living river of ecclesial Tradition, Christ is not two thousand years distant from us, but is really present among us: he gives us the Truth and he gives us the light which is our life and helps us find the path towards the future.”
But Christ's presence in the Church can be taken for granted, Pope Benedict warned. “Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic,” he said. “Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavor?”
“In order for this not to happen,” the Pope said, “it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigor and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation.”
“The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church,” Pope Benedict underscored.
He then exhorted the faithful, saying “Never doubt his presence! Always seek the Lord Jesus, grow in friendship with him, receive him in Communion.”
“Learn to listen to his word and also to recognize him in the poor. Live your lives with joy and enthusiasm, sure of his presence and of his unconditional, generous friendship, faithful even to death on the cross,” the Pope urged.
“Bear witness to all of the joy that his strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries,” he added.
“Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following him. With your enthusiasm, demonstrate that, among all the different ways of life that the world today seems to offer us – apparently all on the same level – the only way in which we find the true meaning of life and hence true and lasting joy, is by following Jesus.”
To read Pope Benedict's full homily, click here.
Lisbon, Portugal, May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Tuesday evening during the papal visit to Portugal, young people from numerous parishes and ecclesial movements showed up outside the apostolic nunciature and began singing to Pope Benedict. After listening to their songs and cheers, he thanked them for “the kindness you have shown this humble Vicar on earth.”
Reflecting on the day's earlier events, which included an open-air Mass in Lisbon's Palace Square, the Pope said he “appreciated the lively and numerous participation of young people” in the Mass, and that it is “a clear indication of their faith and their desire to build their future on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Thank you for your joyful witness to Christ, who is eternally young, and thank you for the kindness you have shown to his humble Vicar on earth by gathering here this evening,” he continued.
“You have come to wish me good night and from my heart I thank you; but now you must let me go and sleep, otherwise the night will not be good, and tomorrow awaits us.”
The Pontiff gave his remarks from the balcony to the young people following his dinner. The youth came from different parishes and ecclesial movements to sing in his honor and receive a blessing.
Looking ahead to the upcoming events, the Pope said that he is “very happy in being able to join the multitude of pilgrims to Fatima on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta. With Our Lady’s help, they learned to recognize God’s light in the depths of their hearts and to adore it in their lives.”
“May the Virgin Mary obtain the same grace for you and may she protect you!” he added. “I continue to count on you and on your prayers that this Visit to Portugal may bear abundant fruit. And now, with great affection, I give you my blessing, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“Good night! See you tomorrow. Thank you very much!”
Washington D.C., May 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Three leading U.S. congressmen have requested a federal probe into whether the Obama administration broke federal laws by promoting a proposed Kenyan constitution that “radically” changes abortion policy.
The Obama administration’s advocacy supporting Kenya’s proposed constitution may constitute a “serious violation” of the Siljander Amendment and may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, the lawmakers said.
According to Rep. Smith’s office, the Siljander Amendment, annually included in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, prohibits lobbying for or against abortion using the funds made available in the act. Penalties for violating the amendment can range from administrative sanctions, such as suspension from duty without pay or removal from office, to sanctions up to a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for up to two years.
Writing to Inspectors General (IG) of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) made the allegations against the U.S. administration.
According to Rep. Smith’s office, the lawmakers reported that Kenya’s current constitution includes no reference to abortion and abortion is not legally permitted in Kenya except to save the life of the mother.
The proposed constitution, which will be subject to a public referendum in August 2010, includes two new articles that if adopted would “enshrine a new constitutional right to abortion in Kenya and dramatically change Kenya’s abortion law,” they charged.
Article 26 of the proposed constitution would allow abortion in cases where health care professionals believe a mother’s “health” is endangered, an exception which has been broadly interpreted in many countries. Article 43 of the proposed constitution would create the right to health care services including “reproductive health care.”
“Reproductive health care” is not defined in the constitution, but it is a common euphemism for abortion access. On April 22, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Obama administration believes that reproductive health “includes access to abortion.”
In the congressmen’s view, any expression of support for or opposition to the proposed constitution, including drafting, offering technical advice, or providing foreign assistance designed to influence public opinion “unavoidably involves lobbying for or against abortion.”
“This concern is particularly salient given the prominence of the abortion issue in the public debate over the referendum,” the congressmen’s letter continued.
They reported that the chairman of Kenya’s Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review has named abortion as one of the four most contentious issues in the proposal.
Rep. Smith noted that the U.S. State Department has pledged to spend $2 million to build support for the proposed constitution.
The congressmen requested an “immediate audit” of all U.S. government funds used or anticipated to be used to support Kenya’s proposed constitution.
Rep. Smith is the leading Republican on the House Africa and Global Health Subcommittee. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Rep. Issa is the lead Republican on the House Oversight Committee. According to Rep. Smith’s office, all three congressmen have broad legal oversight jurisdiction concerning federal funds used internationally.